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Problem gambling and associated mental health concerns in elite athletes: a narrative review
  1. Jeffrey Lee Derevensky1,
  2. David McDuff2,
  3. Claudia L Reardon3,
  4. Brian Hainline4,
  5. Mary E Hitchcock5,
  6. Jeremie Richard1
  1. 1 Educational and Counseling Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3 Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
  4. 4 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  5. 5 Ebling Library for the Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jeffrey Lee Derevensky, Educational and Counseling Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A1Y2, Canada; jeffrey.derevensky{at}


Opportunities to participate in gambling have dramatically changed during the past 20 years. Casinos have proliferated as have electronic gambling machines, lotteries, sports betting, and most recently online gambling. Gambling among the general population has moved from being perceived negatively to a socially acceptable pastime. As over 80% of individuals have reported gambling for money during their lifetime, governments recognise that regulating gambling—a multibillion dollar industry—is a significant source of revenue. While the vast majority of individuals engaged in some form of gambling have no or few gambling-related problems, an identifiable proportion of both adolescents and adults experience significant gambling-related problems. Elite athletes have not been immune to the lure of gambling nor its concomitant problems. Prevalence studies suggest higher rates of gambling problems among athletes than the general population. In this narrative review, we examine several risk factors associated with gambling problems among elite athletes and new forms of gambling that may be problematic for this population. Given the potential serious mental health and performance consequences associated with a gambling disorder for athletes, we aim to increase coaches’, athletic directors’ and health professionals’ knowledge concerning the importance of screening and treatment referrals.

  • psychiatry
  • psychology
  • disorder

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  • Contributors All authors have contributed to the preparation of this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.